Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.


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Hamilton Residency 3

My new middle name is Curiosity.  Like a little kid, mouth open: wow. huh? how come? really? Wow, really. Who?

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Strangely, it feels like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, living my brand new daily life in an arts hub in the old rather broken, semi-forgotten industrial sector of this big city where my Grandmother raised her children. Memory cells light up each night with twenty new names and connections, emails fly out daily from my computer to people I’ve just met, or want to meet. The work on the walls of my studio changes before my eyes as I try things I’ve never tried, make mistakes I’ve never made, sort through which ones to keep and which to release.

There’s a lot of trust in the air.

I’m deeply aware of my solitude, my autonomy, and grateful beyond measure for the opportunity to stretch myself well beyond what has become comfortable. In the sixth day of the first full -time week I’ve lived here, I can feel my thinking, my painting, my writing and my awareness shift as old belief systems dissolve. There are seven weeks left of this residency, and every one of them is glowing with promise.

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From school to studio; books to paint. It’s a complex shift in awareness and perception, I find.  The road from left to right brain is populated with circus performers and street musicians, frequented by students seeking their masters of illusion, lined with bright market tents full of tempting diversionary tactics. You quickly discover that only tourists stop at these, that it’s important to stay mindful and moving forward.

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It has taken a while to sort out who actually lives here, in the space between things predictably linear and things … shaped and sounded differently.  I’m finding that this right brain work is more about releasing what I think I know than applying any learned structure and experience to what I do, since the objective is to change and expand my understanding of what’s possible.

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Often the return to people and conversation is a shock. I’m happy to be reading the reader’s edition of Carl Jung’s Red Book (2009, Shamdasani, Ed.), which is providing some context for the conscious choice to enter transformative space, and be changed by it. A good ‘bridge’ book, as is Once Upon a Time, a short history of Fairy Tale (Warner, 2014), and The Heart of a Peacock, a collection of short pieces by Emily Carr.

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It’s been useful, occasionally, to dip into Art Lessons, Meditations of the Creative Life (2003, Haynes), or a bit of Emerson. Also to shut the whole thing down, go sit in a big chair at the Jackson Square cinema, eat popcorn and watch Aquaman.

Art heals, writes Sean McNiff. I agree, wholeheartedly. Nature heals too.

Now I’m surrounded by human nature, not my beloved lake and forest from last summer, and we humans are complex. Thank you Nora Bateson, for this 8 minute video, which inspires me to make my own, about what art work makes possible.

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In this place of broken sidewalks and boarded up warehouses we grow art, like sprouts push up asphalt. Slowly, bit by bit, but as surely as the sun rises in the east, artists take places like this and clean up old toxic abandoned soil, growing impossible things in impossible places because it is their nature to do so.

It is a reclaiming of health; I’m grateful to be part of the process.

 

 

 


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Fig Leaf on a Snow Day

Open-faced and shovel-sore, I stare out the window at a thousand-thousand demons of whirling, whipped snow.  I think about beauty, and the job of art.

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out the window I write by – add whirling dervish snow demons & you get the picture

If there can be a line we take towards healing the terrible distortions of our belief systems, I think it must be drawn by artists.  There can be no measured, scientific path through the strata of abuses we have inflicted upon ourselves for generations  – it must come from a place of feeling and listening and responding.

Artists, writers, composers, musicians, actors, directors, curators, editors, publishers, conductors are by nature steeped in the human mystery, and of necessity highly skilled in creative problem-solving.  These are the people who need to serve here  – to acknowledge our collective rage, our worry, our sorrow and our sense of betrayal, and to answer with compassionate, edgy work that stirs the pot.

same plant as mine - beautiful thing that can grow to 40 feet tall

fiddle-leaf fig tree

The fig plant leans like love toward the light.

I admire this plant and do my best to encourage its growth,  but as I observe it in the pause of today I hear deep-embedded, unbidden moral whisperings:  The forbidden fruit of  knowledge.  Nakedness and shame.  Banishment from Eden.  Original Sin. 

Ack.

The Holy Roman Church has a lot to answer for – including the pirating of a fig leaf’s raison d’etre, and the placing of said moral reference in my mind. But the more nefarious cultural distortion is far far worse – must we – is it in ANY way appropriate and helpful that we should be so ashamed of our own naked selves?

How much damage has this caused – this shame of being who we are?  How can we accomplish anything of value if at the core we believe have no goodness of our own?  Early in my life I read about and far preferred the material written by the early Gnostics, who were persecuted by the Church because they felt that God resides within each of us, and our true purpose in life is to understand ourselves in this context.  Elaine Pagels is a good source for this discussion – see “The Gnostic Gospels” here

These moral seeds of unworthiness and shame have been sown deeply, and have more roots than we can imagine.  To present just one example of many,  permit me to ask  how the Church of Scientology could even pretend to exist if the Holy Roman Church had not preceeded it?

I just watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” (excellent UK review here), then dug a little more into YouTube for recordings of L.Ron Hubbard, South Park’s explanation of the Scientology core belief system, and some interviews with current Scientology Leader’s niece who has defected, thereby breaking her billion-year contract with the church which she signed at age 7.  Said neice and others who have gone clear of Scientology report that the Church sells it’s prospective members the idea of true individuality and success but relies upon strict and often violently reinforced rules of conformity.  Keep your members weak and fearful and make sure they toe the line.  A proven formula.

It’s incredible what large numbers of people can believe in if they are compelled and taught early enough, or if they are desperately lost in addiction and need help – that the birth mother of Jesus was a virgin, for example, and Mary Magdalene was not one of the apostles (even though she authored a gospel) she was just a prostitute.  If you suspend your belief, just for a moment, it’s interesting to wonder where these ideas came from.

Even if you provide ample room for miracles, which do happen, the biographical treatment of Eve, Mary and Mary (not to mention the horror of the witch hunts) speaks to an attitude towards women by the old Christian Church which is decidedly short-sighted and …. abusive, shall we say?  So how does this play out, over 2013 + years?

I look at a fig plant…..

Reba says: "you're kidding, right?"

Reba wonders about this too.

We are all of us increasingly culpable and exposed in the blight of industrial wastelands,  in the hypocrisy and greed of the Big Bank Boys and their Corporate/Political allies.  In the stories of people with mental illness who live anonymously on the street or in closets, who inexplicably fail at school, who are incarcerated after being pushed beyond their limits – we recognize our own bewildered selves.

It’s hard to look, but it has nothing to do with shame, though maybe that’s what got us here.  Love, now – and compassion holds some promise.  I do think Jesus had many things right, depending of course on which version of the bible you’re reading – see Elaine Pagels on the Gospel of Thomas (the Doubter?  or maybe just a healthy skeptic), which was NOT included in the Biblical texts (Beyond Belief – the Secret Gospel of Thomas)…

ahh.

ahh…

I’m glad for this snow day.  Glad for the whirling demons outside, the fig tree and the wood fire that warms my back, and the time to layer these ideas one over the other & watch which questions emerge.  It has inspired me to write dangerous poetry.  To continue to make art that is slightly uncomfortable and looks straight in the eye of forbidden questions.  To play play play music with all the beautiful rage and rebel that I can muster…

So happy Friday, all.  Sad for you if you didn’t get a snow day.  I hope you get one soon.